- NL Sena
What does it say of an institution when it censors its students from expressing themselves? Nothing good. And when it’s a college of journalism?
Narendra Singh Rao, an academic associate at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi, who had been working at the institution since 2010 was abruptly terminated without prior notice. This is not the first time such arbitrary decisions have been taken by IIMC administration. Earlier in 2016, an associate professor, Amit Sengupta was transferred to Dhenkenal Campus for allegedly showing solidarity with the agitating students of the Film and Television Institute of India, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the students protesting the suicide of Rohith Vemula.
Rao, like Sengupta before him had questioned the functioning and nature of the Institute. Rao alleges that he had supported the 20+ Dalit workers who were sacked by the administration without any prior notice. Rao penned an open letter to the Director General of the institute KG Suresh Rao highlighting both the hostile work environment he felt he was subjected to and the ideology that pervaded the campus. He also questioned the merit of the newly appointed Advertisement and Public Relations Course Director Surbhi Dahiya. He claimed that pressure tactics were used by IIMC administration, forcing a female student to withdraw her case of cyber-sexual harassment. Rao also maintained that only RSS leaning journalists were being invited in campus for special lectures. The campus has seen Rajat Sharma, Swapan Das Gupta, Chandan Mitra and Ram Bahadur Ray give talks but little or no journalists with opposing views.
Following Rao’s open letter, students took up the issue on social media in solidarity. Hashtags and Facebook posts began to trend. However, a few students were served a disciplinary show cause notice in regard to their posts on social media. Students also claim that screenshots of their whatsapp group chat and Facebook posts are being maintained by the IIMC administration.
A student from the Radio & Television (RTV) Journalism course, Ankit Kumar Singh said, “The callous manner in which Naren has been terminated violates the principles of Natural Justice and right to fair hearing is a part of it. Many jurists and philosophers have highlighted its importance in ensuring a just society.”
Another student, Abhik Deb told me, “The intention behind taking up this was not about siding with an individual but standing up for a teacher who has been sacked in an unprofessional manner. The resistance that I received from the administration during this process was like an exercise for my future journalistic career.” Meanwhile, copies of the notice have also been sent to the students’ homes as an act od added pressure.
Saket Anand, a student who has been served the notice said, “ The intention behind the notice is totally absurd and is aimed at intimidating us. I feel this is a perfect case of media gagging and totally different from what we are taught in classrooms”.
As Rao’s open letter states, he pledges to fight back with all vigor and legal means. However, his priorities currently are his students. “Right now, I am more concerned about my students. The way IIMC administration is trying to harass them is disappointing. At the same time, I am proud of the students because of the courage and conviction they are showing and the ideals they stand by.”
This incident has also has trolls and Right wingers chiming in. Suresh Chiplunkar, who is unrelated to the university or any of the people involved has taken to maligning professors and students on ideological lines. Interestingly, he had tagged the Director General of IIMC, Suresh, Narendra Modi, Prakash Javdekar, Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh.
Students have also taken to fighting amongst themselves along ideological lines. A student of Hindi Journalism has openly bragged about his RSS allegiance. He also posted a copy of Naren Rao’s contract letter on Facebook. Many have expressed concern about how he came in possesion of the document.
Suresh quoted clause 1 of Rao’s contract which meant he could be terminated without an explanation. Additional director general, Mayank Kumar Agrawal told The Caravan that IIMC had paid Rao a month’s salary, in lieu of a notice period.